Currently browsing Posts Tagged “ICT”

Demonstrating the effective use of Internet Resources

This presentation, delivered to a group of Heads of Modern Foreign Language and titled The Effective use of Internet Resources, was meant to demystify the use of internet tools, so-called Web 2.0, in the classroom context.

Many teachers think/fear that they are going to be out of their depths and/or that it’s going to be require an inordinate amount of effort on their parts. With this presentation, I set out to demonstrate:

a) that the enrichment of MFL teaching and learning through the effective use of ICT is both desirable and, indeed, recommended by both the New Secondary Curriculum in the UK and the new specifications for GCSE in MFL;

b) how, given our pupils’ natural predisposition to use ICT, using internet tools can effectively improve the the teaching and learning of MFL by increasing motivation, engagement and, therefore, achievement;

c) how the work is mainly carried out by students on their home or school computers, releasing the teacher to facilitate and oversee the process, as well as to assess the results.

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Languages ICT Outlook

ICT Outlook
The Languages ICT website is fruit of the collaboration between CILT, the National Centre for Languages, and the Association for Language Learning. It is a wonderful resource for languages teachers aspiring to make better, more effective use of ICT in teaching and learning, offering a wealth of resources, case studies and tried and tested ideas for lessons involving the effective use of ICT in both primary and secondary education.

The main website contains the ICT Outlook section, which I have felt privileged to write again this year. The aim of the ICT Outlook is to keep readers up to date with key developments and events in the field of ICT and MFL in the current year, as well as to throw a retrospective spotlight on the past year’s major initiatives, developments and events.

Click here to read this year’s ICT Outlook.

The Languages ICT website is a static website and does not have a comment facility, so please feel free to write any comments or feedback you may have here on Box of Tricks.

Why do I use Web 2.0? Now that is a good question…

Leon filming student

I was delighted to welcome yesterday Theo Kuechel and Leon Cych who came over to my school to interview me and some of my pupils as they worked on a Web 2.0 project in our ICT room. Theo and Leon are filming a number of practitioners across the country in order to put together a number of case studies for an online CPD course on behalf of Naace for the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

Their questions made me reflect about why I use technology and Web 2.0 (nope, I don’t like that term either, but, hey, it’s all we’ve got) in my classes. Using web based applications has become so natural for me now, you could even say normal, that I always forget that those of us opting to enrich our pupil’s learning experience in this way are very much in the minority, for one reason or another.


My interest in using web based applications to enhance teaching and learning started early. Having used computers a lot in a previous incarnation working for a large transport and logistics company, I already felt comfortable with the idea of using computers to help me manage teaching administration, such as assessment data or lesson planning, by the time I started my teacher training,

But it was once I was placed in schools as part of my teacher training, teaching real students, that I realised that ICT could make my life easier as a teacher in terms of administration, and also that pupils were actually engaged and enthused by the prospect of using computers in learning languages.

The use of web applications also allowed my pupils to use software which they didn’t have to install and which could be accessed from any computer as long as it was connected to the internet. This meant that they could work on the same piece of work, the same project, both from school and from home, allowing me to bridge the gap in between the two.

Examples of Web 2.0 tools applied to school work

Looking back to only five years ago or so, it is obvious that I have incorporated Web 2.0 into my schemes of work more and more without really noticing or even without having made a conscious decision to do so. It just happened, because it worked for me and my students. Nowadays, my classes do a project every two or three weeks which involves the use of Web 2.0 applications in one way or another.

These are some of the projects on which we have worked in the past year:

What makes these applications so special and why should you care?

The visual qualities of web 2.0 are very important. When I was a student, I went home after school and relaxed watching tv or reading a magazine. In comparison, the first thing my pupils do, however, is switch on their computers, not the tv. In their computers, they are faced with a world which is bright and visual, rich in images, video and sound.

Using web 2.0 at school taps into this world of theirs and allows pupils to express their creativity in a way which they find familiar, because these websites operate on the same principles of social networking and content creation and sharing to which they are already so used to. So, if we teach them in a way that reflects how they live their lives when they’re not in school, and if we help to ensure that the gap between their school life and real life is minimised, we then become better able to guarantee the commitment and engagement of the vast majority of our students.

Perhaps Prensky had a point after all…

In my experience, pupils come into secondary schools nowadays having already become very familiar with computers and able to easily navigate websites and communicate using the internet. If they are faced with new tools, they have a go and generally learn impressively quickly how to use them.

Yes, of course, this doesn’t apply to every pupil and, of course, they still struggle with spreadsheets and, of course, they don’t really understand what internal computing processes make the animations in Go!Animate come about. And does it really matter? If you think about it, they don’t have to know: you manage to drive a car perfectly well with only a basic understanding of how a gear-box operates or how the fuel is fed to the engine; you are probably perfectly fluent in English but, unless you’re a linguist, you might struggle to tell the difference between the indicative and subjunctive mood or the passive and active voice.

This doesn’t mean you can’t really drive or that you can’t really speak English, just that you don’t need to know the internal workings of how it is achieved, just in the same way a Formula 1 driver does not need to know the width of a piston or a writer does not need to know how many phonemes the English language has. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a Flash developer.

My inkling is that my younger students come to us already having developed something akin to web sytax, an internet universal grammar if you like, which they have often already mastered by the time they make the transition from primary. We, teachers, therefore ought to be able to make the most of what abilities these students already posses so as to transform the way we teach them.

Many thanks again to Leon and Theo for coming to see us and for making me think about why I do what I do. As ever, do feel free to let me know, by way of comment, what your thoughts are.

Photos by Theo Kuechel

When your opinion won’t be heard…

I have managed fora in the past with my students and am no stranger to cases when users have abused the forum by using inappropriate language, adding inappropriate content or simply generally being unpleasant. Imagine my surprise then when I found myself last night with the tables turned on me: I had breached the guidelines of a well known MFL resources forum and got a slap on the wrist in the form of an email from the forum administrator. My post was subsequently deleted.

The thread which prompted such inappropriate response from me dealt with Go!Animate, a tool which I reported on a couple of months ago and which allows the user to create animations. The thread discussed its usefulness in the teaching of modern languages and some negative views were expressed by other forum participants who did not think Go!Animate presented a good opportunity for language learning. One of the participants also suggested that students would be wasting their time because they would be learning some ICT alongside their foreign language.

This was my response (verbatim), the tone of which was deemed inflaming and not thoughtful or generous by the administrator:

Hello all,

I have been following this thread with interest and have been quite
honestly shocked at the negativity in display towards using ICT in
your classroom.

We are forever complaining how kids are not opting to do languages yet
we don’t do much to help ourselves on this respect.

Here is a way to connect with students, to exploit the tools they are
already familiar with through the likes of Bebo or MySpace, a chance
to work in their territory.

Here is a chance to make ourselves relevant to them, to motivate
students who would otherwise be reluctant or too shy (you can upload
voice recordings) to produce their own dialogues.

Yet we still refuse to engage with them… our students! How do we
expect them to engage with us?

Anyway, worry not, rant over. I, for one, have been using GoAnimate
with my classes quite successfully, my Year 8 students now look
forward to their homework for a change… they want to write in
German. I don’t know about you, but that is a big plus in my book.

If you are interested in reading more about my experiences please read
my blog post about it

J Picardo

The removal of my post, above, was followed by an exchange of emails with the forum administrator in which I tried to ascertain what exactly had caused its deletion from the forum. As far as I understand it, as well as the perceived lack of thoughtfulness and generosity on my part, the forum administrator objected to my using the word rant, on the grounds that “there are other fora which allow ranting – but this isn’t one of them!”

Needless to say I don’t see anything in my post which might cause offence to anyone. I was rather hoping instead to challenge some entrenched attitudes which I believe are endemic and hopelessly counter-productive in the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages.

Perhaps I am wrong and my post is totally out of order. Judge for yourself. What do you think?

Picture from Flickr - benandjenn
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Glogster – create online posters

I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at Glogster for a couple of weeks now, ever since I was having a chat with a colleague from school who was as fed up trying to get his students to make a brochure using Microsoft Word as part of the ICT provision. It turns out that his students were fed up too trying to make Word do things it wasn’t designed to do. I thought there should be a better option out there, and I think I’ve found it in Glogster.

Glogster is a Web 2.0 tool that allows students to create online posters or glogs, as they call them, which can then be shared on the internet and, crucially, they can be embedded on school wikis.

Many subjects, not least Languages, make brochures using computers every now and then. They are great for acquiring ICT skills, motivating students to do some research on a topic and write in the target language and, if planned properly, they are also fantastic peer assessment tools.

But why limit yourself to only writing? We live in an age of rich media and instant communication. Our pupils go home, get online and watch videos on Youtube, listen to music on MySpace or and comment on each other’s videos or profiles. That’s what they do. They most certainly do not open Word for fun.

That’s Glogster’s advantage in my opinion. It offers students an environment which they are used to, it allows them to be intuitively creative (dragging and dropping, resizing etc), have fun and, most importantly, it allows them to include sound and video. Click here or on the picture above to go to a glog I made earlier today, notice the sound and video players.

If you are a language teacher, you’ll immediately realise how useful the ability to add sound files is. Students can record themselves in the privacy of their own headsets or at home, removing any reticence to speak in the target language in front of peers or teachers. If they get something wrong, they just delete it and try again, as many times as it takes to get it right. It’s brilliant.

So, next time you’re thinking of getting your students to do a brochure in the ICT rooms or as homework, get them to do a glog instead. I can guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome (it’s often the quiet ones who really shine, in my experience) and that you will have students wanting to speak write and research about your subject. What more do you want?

A very nice touch from Glogster is that they offer support for education by creating private school accounts. So no worries about safety then. Visit the Glogster Education page for more information.

After half term, I’ll be using Glogster with my Year 8 German group (12-13 year olds) to make posters about where they live. I’ll be back in touch with the results.

What do you think about Glogster? Can you think of any other alternatives to the good, old word-processed brochure?

Do you know of a teaching and learning resource you would like to share? Please do not hesitate to get in touch.